March 1, 2024

Google’s South Korean Offices Raided Over Data Collection

SEOUL — The Seoul police raided Google’s office here Tuesday on suspicion that its mobile advertising unit, AdMob, had illegally collected users’ location data without users’ consent, the police said. The raid represents the latest setback to the U.S. Internet search company’s South Korean operations.

The investigation also highlights growing concerns about possible misuse of private information as the popularity of mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers increases.

Information on users’ locations is viewed as crucial for the growing mobile advertising sector, as it helps personalize online ads according to individual preferences or geographical positions. Last month, Apple defended its use of iPhone location data but denied that it was tracking the movements of customers.

Google and Apple have been criticized by U.S. lawmakers over their protection and use of consumer data from cellphone applications, including where users are located.

Google executives have talked about the ability to tailor advertising to users on the basis of location. Google bought AdMob, a leading global mobile advertising firm, last year for $750 million.

“Every technology has a flip side,” said Kim Kwang-jo, a computer science professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. “Location-based services benefit customers by helping them find nearby restaurants, gas stations and other places with their smartphones. But it could potentially violate consumer privacy. There are loopholes in location-based services, and companies should get consent from customers to collect location data.”

Google confirmed that the police had visited its Seoul office and said the company was cooperating with the investigation.

Jang Byung-duk, who is in charge of cybercrime investigation at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said, “We suspect AdMob collected personal location information without consent or approval from the Korean Communication Commission.”

The Seoul police also raided the offices of the local Internet portal Daum Communications on similar suspicions, Daum said Tuesday. Daum said the collection of location data by its mobile ad services was not illegal, as the data were anonymous and could not be used to track individuals.

Google has already been the subject of investigations in the United States, Britain, France, Singapore, Switzerland and South Korea over data collected for its Street View mapping service, using a fleet of cars that take pictures and gather information about wireless Internet connections.

The Seoul police concluded in January that Google had collected location information and other data from 600,000 wireless Internet users in South Korea with three Street View cars.

Google tightened its privacy policy after revelations that the cars, which take panoramic pictures of city streets, had inadvertently collected data from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries.

The top Internet portals in South Korea — one of the world’s most wired countries — filed a complaint with antitrust regulators last month claiming that Google was unfairly stifling competition in the country.

Google is one of the smallest players in South Korea’s fixed-line Internet search market, but it enjoys a share of nearly 20 percent in the mobile Internet market, backed by its Android operating system for cellphones.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also considering a broad investigation into Google because of its dominance of the Internet search industry.

Google, which controls about two-thirds of the global search market, is a stellar performer in the booming smartphone and tablet market. Device makers like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, both based in South Korea, increasingly are adopting Android to counter the heavyweight Apple.

Rival technology companies, including Microsoft, are trying to rein in Google’s growth. The global smartphone market is forecast to grow 58 percent this year, and Android-based devices will account for 39 percent of the market, according to the research firm Gartner. In the tablet market, Gartner said, Apple’s share will gradually decline to 47 percent by 2015 from 69 percent this year, with Google’s share forecast to rise to 39 percent from 20 percent now.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind